I seem to have been locked firmly into "slow airs mode" over the past few weeks. Must be something to do with the cold weather and the dark winter nights! That is largely what has inspired this question. I'm interested in other peoples views on this one.

 

I play airs differently to dance music, and I don't just mean slower !!  It takes me ages to get to a point where I decide that they are as good as they are going to get. Does anyone else share this experience with me - or am I being "odd" again?

 

I seem to spend ages tweaking and polishing them. Much more so than dance tunes. I also, possibly as a consequence, find them much more satisfying to play than a lot of dance music. Is anyone else similarly afflicted?

 

The question I'm asking though is, I suppose, just as pertinent to dance music. How do you know when you are truly happy with your version of a tune? When is it time to wash the brushes rather than add another dab here and there? I have my own answers, but I'm interested in yours!

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Good question Mike.

Problem is: Is there an answer really?

Every time I play a tune, I have found that I do not play it exactly the same each time, whether practising or playing at a gig.  The basic rhythm doesn't change, but the tempo might, or  my embellishments might, and so on. Unless I totally mess up, I am usually pretty happy.  If I get an applause great, but if something comes flying through the air at me, first I duck, then I say to myself: "try to remember to not play it this way again." (mind you I have never had anything thrown at me).

I think each time we play we are starting a new canvas and may end up ad-libbing on our basic day to day presentation of the tune.

What was the question? :0

Mike, I feel as Albert does, in that it's difficult to pinpoint an exact time when you may be happy with a tune.

Usually for me, if I have conquered as best I can the technicalities of the tune then, it's just a matter of whether or not I am relatively happy most of the times I play it after that!

Sounds like you are always self-critical and if so - join the club! I think it's a pretty big one!

Indeed it's an international organisation, the self-critiques..

Personally, i feel happy when i am able to play along with a recording and sound like my part belongs. Example - i played along with Planxty the other day on flute to 'Merrily kissed the quaker' and for once in a blue moon got through the tune without a single flub! That called for a quitet 'YES' to myself : )

That's very true Lars, I do that too.

I usually find though that I don't sound as good without the recording so there is for me, still another stage where I then have to sound good playing the tune alone! But I find the actual playing with recordings a very inspiring exercise and many times it has been the catalyst to get me back playing/studying/composing...... It's such a boost and a thrill for me to play and sound good playing with a recording that inspires me!

It's quite a task to sound good solo.. When playing with other instruments, they blend together and create harmonies that imo can't be replicated when playing solo..

Another thing is that you don't hear your instrument they way it sounds to others when you play it yourself, biggest offenders in this sense is the bodhrán and the pipes, which can sound like an old suitcase and a plastic saxophone respectively, but when someone else plays your instrument it sounds grand.

Thanks Lars & Aine,

 

Interesting indeed - you have something like my view on it Aine.

"Sounds like you are always self-critical and if so - join the club! I think it's a pretty big one!"

I'm not on my own then!

 

Playing along with recordings is not something I do a lot. But I think that comes back to differences in how we learn.  I've said before, my ears are rubbish!! I am getting better with them but its still 99% dots for me. Having said that, I do listen to recordings in order to identify tunes I want to learn. I'm also a strong advocate of listening to my own output and my endless tweaks and twiddles start once I can begin to play the basic tune. Once at that stage, I think I'd find it too distracting to play along with a recording.

 

Thats a good point too Lars "you don't hear your instrument they way it sounds to others when you play it yourself". I often wonder about that! Making recordings of myself is useful and often quite revealing - and never in a good way! I certainly have no memory of all those bum notes and timing flaws until I play it back!

 

All good interesting stuff from both of you, Many thanks for your input.

 

I agree with Aine & Lars, and I, myself, find many good things coming from playing along with CDs. If you have a good ear to hear the intricacies of embellishments, the "sexy way" a person can touch you with their sound, you'll find much you can take with you in developing your own style. Also, I'm a firm believer that every instrument has its' own spirit and if you can put yourself in sync with that spirit, you're half way there. There may be those times that occurr when performing a piece is flawless, but as Ben states (in a way), it may not be a constant thing. To strive for perfection could be a very frustrating thing when achievement seems out of reach. Where's the fun in that??? But to play with abandonment, for the fun of it, you'll sometimes surprise yourself. Recording yourself, listening to it (the good and the bad) allows you to critique your progress, but don't be too hard on yourself. Sometimes, playing one bar of music over and over (slow at first to become familiar with the fingerings &/or breath control, then incresing your speed) can get you through a piece. Even if you stumble, keep going!! Bringing it to a session might be intimidating, but play softly,....or if need be, don't play it at all,.....just finger it. If the other players in the session don't mind, record the session. Practice it later when you're home and alone, then you can surprise your session mates at the next gathering.

In regard to playing Aires I think the "spiritual" and "emotional input/output" must come into play. I love moody music that can bring a tear to your eye, or bring a cherished memory out from the recesses of your mind. Of course the technical aspects of the piece are important, but I think the delivery of the music helps decide "if it's as good as it's going to get". What it touches inside of you, and what it touches in those that may be listening is the deciding factor. Listen to the live version of Steeleye Span's "Betsy Bell & Mary Grey" on YouTube. Haunting,....goosebumping,.....demanding you to listen,....  Or Tony DeMarco's "The Sally Gardens" (from his Sligo Indians CD), or Burning Bridget Clary's version of Brian MacNeill's "Peace and Plenty" (or even Brian's own version, for that matter).

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